The Importance of Proper Skin Care
Given the ubiquity of cosmetics and skin care products that promise to make you beautiful, it can be easy to forget that skin's primary purpose is not to make you look good. Skin is the largest organ of the body and plays a role as central to your body's operations as your liver or kidneys. Among its many duties, skin assists in protecting the internal organs, regulates body temperature and helps eliminate dangerous toxins in the body. Accordingly, taking good care of your skin is of utmost importance.
What Is Skin?
Skin is made of up of three layers. The top layer of skin is called the epidermis. It is responsible for making new skin cells to replace the thousands of old ones that flake off daily, as well as to produce melanin, a substance that gives skin its color and helps protect against ultraviolet rays. The second layer of skin is called the dermis, which is primarily composed of strong fibrous tissues called collagen and elastin. These tissues support the structure of the epidermis and contain numerous nerve endings, blood vessels and oil glands. The bottom layer of skin is subcutaneous fat, which helps keep your body warm, absorbs shocks and helps to connect the skin to the tissues beneath the skin altogether.
Causes of Skin Damage
Skin can be damaged in a number of ways, but the most common way is through sun exposure. Sunlight contains ultraviolet rays that penetrate the epidermis and causes mutations in the skin's cellular DNA. In fact, a tan or reddening skin is simply the skin's weak attempt to protect itself from further DNA damage. Skin is also frequently damaged by unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking excess amounts of alcohol. These habits promote the incidence of free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules, which attack healthy skin cells, weakening them or killing them altogether.
Effects of Damaged Skin
According to the Stanford Cancer Center, skin that has been damaged by the sun is more likely to develop skin cancer. Further, such skin is more likely to age prematurely. Both ultraviolet light and free radicals damage and weaken collagen and elastin, the tissues that support the outer layer of skin, thus causing wrinkles, fine lines, age spots and other skin blemishes.
Proper Skin Care
One of the best things you can do for your skin is to protect it from the sun. On sunny days, 30 minutes before leaving your house, make sure to apply sunscreen to all areas of your body that will be exposed to the sun. However, your skin will receive the best protection if you apply sunscreen every day, even in winter or on cloudy days. Ultraviolet rays can penetrate clouds and they are present, though weaker, in cold weather. In addition, you should quit smoking and eat healthy, skin-friendly foods to reduce signs of aging as well as the risk of skin cancer.
Foods for Healthy Skin
Foods containing antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C and E, are excellent at expelling skin-damaging free radicals from the body. Foods high in antioxidants include prunes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and citrus fruits. Other foods that promote skin health include salmon, brazil nuts, avocados and carrots.
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